Microsoft shipped last week the final release version of Windows DreamScene, the Windows Vista Ultimate Extra that lets you use animated desktop wallpapers. A beta of DreamScene was delivered in the beginning of the year, but many had begun to worry that no one was working on Ultimate Extras at all. DreamScene, to most Ultimate users, is only the second “real” Ultimate Extra Microsoft has delivered, besides Texas Hold ‘Em.
Of course, as late (and underwhelming and poorly performing) as this saga has been, what’s even more annoying is that Long Zheng uncovered that DreamScene was actually completed July 19, two and a half months ago. The DLL’s were finalized then, as indicated in the files, so Microsoft completed this a while ago, but just shipped it now.
Granted, it may have taken that long just to get it through Microsoft’s much maligned QA, but still, it’s annoying to think of them sitting on this stuff until someone complains loudly enough. Hopefully they’re working on getting their stuff together, because Ultimate users are your best advocates, and you piss them off, they might find Mac OS and all its extras a little more tempting.
Windows Vista Ultimate Extras has been seeing some outrage from the community the last week, as the sad realization that we haven’t seen a new Ultimate Extra since the DreamScene preview was released on February 14, over four months ago. While not a terrible gap, the lack of communication from Microsoft almost seems to suggest that no Ultimate Extras are ever coming, a notion Microsoft should feel responsible to dispell.
According to Long (who calls Ultimate Extras a sham), part of the problem stems from the fact that DreamScene is proving particularly nasty to be finalized in any stable form, and that ultimately architectural problems will prevent it from ever being perfect. That’s fine! Ultimate Extras are supposed to be cool, cutting edge, and beta, and that means they don’t need to be finished products, just make us feel better and get extra bang for our Ultimate buck.
What can save Ultimate Extras right now? Freebies. Microsoft needs to look at its software library, its entire software library stretching back into forever, and find things it can’t make money on, and release them once in a while completely free to Ultimate owners.
It’s not even a question what the first title needs to be: Halo for Windows. The orginial Halo costs under ten bucks in most stores, meaning Microsoft makes bupkis on every sale. Free Halo would make more money selling Vista Ultimate than it will any more on its own.
Following that, we should talk free OneNote for Vista Ultimate owners who buy any Office 2007 product, free Home Server install disk with the purchase of Vista Ultimate and a Vista Family Discount license, and free older products that no one sells anymore. I’d like a copy of Space Simulator, thank you very much.
What would you like out of Ultimate Extras, if you could have anything within reason?
I don’t think there needs to be an Ultimate team, or an Ultimate Extras team, but someone at Microsoft should be writing an Ultimate Extras blog, soliciting the community for feedback, tossing out ideas, and then negotiating with product teams on the inside to release those products and offers at decent intervals. Merely the appearance of caring would go a long way. I’d take the task, for free, just to move things along.
Oh, and could we get ATI and Nvidia to release Vista drivers as an Ultimate Extra? I feel like they would actually be faster coming and more stable that way! Just kidding.
Looks like their screen recording software wasn’t so great that month. Why do so many screencasting apps suck? My favorite of the month? Desktop Earth, Stardock’s own showing the planet rotating in real time with real day/night cycles.
It was almost inevitable that someone would attempt to hack Windows Vista’s Ultimate Extras to run under versions of Vista other than Ultimate. Now its Windows DreamScene, the software which enables you to run video wallpaper on Vista Ultimate, which has been hacked to run on all versions of Vista, from Basic, to Home Premium, to Business, to Enterprise. I’m shocked they could get it to run under Basic; you’d think it required the Desktop Window Manager.
Naturally, Microsoft issued a takedown, and anyone who posts links to the hacked package is just asking for trouble. Still, I’ve already found a copy, so if you’re truly desperate… Also, no word if this runs just DreamScene on other versions, or DeskScapes, too.
I think this might be fun to do, but it’d be far more useful to hack the Desktop Window Manager to run properly under Vista Basic, including Windows Aero and Flip 3D. Next thing you know, someone’ll hack the Texas Hold ‘Em game to run under other versions, instead of something more substantial.
(via Download Squad)
In honor of the huge push Microsoft is giving Silverlight at Mix 07, Microsoft has released a couple of Windows Vista Ultimate DreamScenes that promote the tech. No, the DreamScenes aren’t built in WPF (which would be amazing), they just show off the cool Silverlight logo, and come in Standard and Widescreen.
Microsoft also released some stuff via Windows Update for Vista, including a compatibility update to help eight products work better on Vista, including RealPlayer, as well as an Outlook 2007 junk mail filter update, a DreamScene content pack (which I will review in the future), and, for Windows Server 2003, service pack 2.
Here’s my second review of new Windows Vista DreamScenes, 11 new ones and two revised ones. Watch the YouTube video, or the Soapbox video to see parts one and two together, then keep reading on for the reviews:
3D Vista Ultimate is a series of Vista Ultimate wallpapers, completely static images, changing with a cool flyby transition effect. There’s not much of any animation to satisfy those looking for cool DreamScene effects, but you do wind up with a new, sweet-looking wallpaper every 20 seconds, and the transition effect isn’t too distracting.
Butterfly Effect makes for one of the better ideas for DreamScenes: A static image with a single moving area. In this one, there are a number of flowers, and two butterflies flapping their wings. While the effect and concept are great, the flowers are too out-of-focus for most people who like sharp wallpapers; I actually found the blurriness distracting.
CrystalLake features a clean, almost transparent lake shimmering on a dark day, below a motionless sky. Good darker wallpaper, with not that much distraction, but bad performance and bad looping. I can’t run this on a relatively powerful Vista system, and that’s enough of a problem.
SunnyForestDay_03 is a video of a forest on a not-sunny-enough day, with the trees moving slowly in the breeze. If you want a .dream with little motion, this could be it, but it is a bit too blurry and not bright enough to be great.
Hot Lava is a poorly looping scene of steam gas rising above water, next to rocks. Very orangy/brown. The bad looping hurts it bad, otherwise it looks great.
TrueBlue has been updated. The look is the same, but movement seems smoother, and the looping is now near-perfect. Gains 1.5 points.
Lost Island is another nature scene, this one featuring an island in the near-distance, waves crashing against the shore, and branches moving in the breeze in the foreground. A little too dark, subtle enough movement, but poor looping.
Soothing Blues features vertical bars of blue getting darker and lighter. A little too fast, but a great effect, marred by a glitch at the end of the loop on the bottom of the screen.
Vista is Vista V3 under a different name. There is no discernable performance or appearance difference. Rating remains the same.
Blue Plasma is identical to Exotic Plasma (and both are from Stardock), just bright electric blue instead of multiple muted colors.
Laser features a tunnel of shimmering green light. Has to be seen to be believed. Beautiful. Best of the new bunch.
Wasser is everything we expected out of static/single point dreams, with an amazing photo of an old house, grass, trees and a waterfall. The waterfall is the only thing moving, making for a subtle, beautiful effect. The picture is sharp, high quality. Amazingly, the .dream is only three megabytes, so it should run great on older systems. This is the DreamScene many people have been waiting for. Just amazing.
IceCold features a waterfall in a tight close up on an icy rock face. The quality is too low, and the effect on system performance is atrocious. Could be better if it didn’t slow my system to a crawl, or if it was sharper.
The first DreamScenes have started appearing, and I’m going to review every damn one of them so you can choose the best. Watch them all in this video, and read below for my thoughts.
Here are the first eleven:
Aurora comes with DreamScene when you install it from Windows Update. It features the familiar green and blue Vista themes and flair, and matches all of Vista. There is very subtle movement, perfect looping, and the only annoyance is the Vista flair in the lower right-hand corner drawing attention to itself once in a while.
Exotic Plasma comes with Stardock’s Deskscapes. It is a bright swirling mass of color, looks amazing, and has little movement so as not to be distracting. Of the early bunch, it is easily the best DreamScene.
Mana Shades is a sheet of silver/blue silk shimmering slowly. It is subtle, calm, but a little too slow. You might forget it is even moving, which almost defeats the purpose of these. Still, it looks sharp.
Sylock Red features several rotating giant gears. The Gears move slowly so as not to distract or annoy. The quality is excellent, and if you do not want too much bright color, this is the best Dream of the early bunch.
Nebula features a purple/black starry space view. The only motion is the twinkling of the stars, making it a little too simple for those looking for fancy Dreams. If other Dreams run too slowly to look good, this could be your answer, since any lag would not be noticeable due to the lack of motion. Otherwise, forget it.
Robotica is a short video promoting Windows Media Video HD. The graphics are great, but there is a ton of motion, and it repeats every 15 seconds (with no seamless looping). This is way too busy for most users, only good for showing off DreamScene. Not for daily use.
Yellow Sun features the Sun, the Earth and the Moon orbiting on a ten second loop. The looping has a small lighting problem, but is otherwise seamless. The movement, while slightly less than Robotica, is still too distracting, with the giant sun flying around your screen. Also, there is no background detail, with the universe being presented as a flat gray plane and no stars in the sky. Needs slower movement and more detail to be a contender.
Deep Ocean features a great idea, waves in the ocean, very poorly executed. There is no thought given to looping, making it very awkward. Could be way better.
Vista V3 features the Windows Vista logo on a black background with swirling blue ribbons around it. If there’s any better way to say, “I have Vista and it looks killer!”, I don’t know of it. Slightly more distracting than I’d like, but damn good anyway.
Dark Avatar features an alien planet with small passenger ships traveling in the skies and streets. Oddly, the ships are not that distracting, except for one that swoops down at the screen, but the shadowing can get annoying. Too much motion for some, but better than average.
True Blue has a blue fabric background with zero motion, just shifting shadows. Could have been one of the better subtle Dreams, but is hampered by truly awful looping. If they fix that, it would be a lot higher on this list.
Windows Vista Ultimate owners, the Ultimate Extra you have waited for is finally here: DreamScene, which brings active motion desktops to Vista with less of a performance hit than you’d expect. DreamScene was developed for Microsoft by StarDock, which has been developing one of the top Windows add-ons of all-time, WindowsBlinds, and has years of experience making Windows look better. DreamScene should already be available as an Ultimate Extra for download within Vista.
Not only is DreamScene free, but StarDock’s DeskScapes are free too. DeskScapes is an add-on for DreamScene that brings dynamic wallpapers to Vista Ultimate. To explain: DreamScene plays WMV and MPEG desktop wallpaper, while DeskScape adds extra .DREAM files, that have dynamic non-video content. Wallpapers can shift based on events, like a landscape wallpaper having the sun set and get darker as the day goes by, or showing the actual weather conditions in your area.
DeskScapes does not have an interface. Just install it, and you can manage .DREAM files in the same place you manage standard Windows wallpapers (and it gives Windows more advanced regular wallpaper options). Anyone can create DeskScapes, and get credit and a link back to their website within the Windows shell.